Welcome to #4 in a twelve part series featuring the key ingredients of our secret sauce –our Values in Action. We’ll not only tell you what they are, but we’ll show you how to apply them.  In this post, we’ll show how healthy conflict can make a team stronger, even when they don’t agree.

Core Value: Pursue Uncompromised Integrity

Value in Action: Encourage Healthy Conflict

We encourage an open exchange of ideas and the healthy conflict that naturally follows from discussing matters of substance.  We believe that unanimity is rare and therefore rarely required; while unity is essential once an issue has been fairly debated.  

Now, let’s see this value in action…on an IT project team:

The team was very excited about their upcoming project. The board had just approved a major new software initiative.  The buy vs. build decision had been made and they were going to get to build it…or so it seemed.

Joe, the Enterprise Architect and newest member of the team, was advocating a new hybrid approach to building the application.  One that leveraged Microsoft Dynamics CRM as a development platform via their “xRM Framework”.  As Joe explained, “this framework consists of four core components – User Interface, database engine, reporting engine, workflow engine.  Components common to every application which together account for the majority of the programming required.”

Joe’s argument was simple and logical –why reinvent software components if you don’t have to?  But, some of the more senior developers weren’t buying it.  After all, if software is a form of art, who wants to paint by numbers?  Besides, no generic platform could possibly be as good as one tailor-made for the system it’s designed to support.  Things were starting to heat up.

Fortunately, Kathy, the Executive Sponsor was in the meeting. She intervened before this healthy conflict deteriorated into a personal war of words.  Kathy asked the developers to express their arguments in more business versus artistic terms.  She then asked Joe to address the developers’ artistic concerns, as well as their unspoken fear of change.  Once she was confident that everyone’s concerns had been heard and understood, she called for the vote.

To no one’s surprise, the most senior developer cast the lone vote in favor of a pure custom approach.  Eric was sure he could single-handedly design and build a system from scratch that would be superior to any “Brand X” platform approach.  Nonetheless, the decision was made to build the application on the Dynamics CRM platform.  As he was leaving the meeting room, Eric turned to Kathy and said, “Though I disagree with the approach, I appreciated the opportunity to weigh in on the decision.  Guess I better start reading up on that “Brand X” stuff.”

As she walked away, Kathy thought to herself, “I’m glad Eric voiced his concerns, so the team could address them in a healthy way.”  She knew all too well that absence of conflict can destroy a team faster than any conflict ever could.